12/07/2016

KotFE Chapter by Chapter - Chapter 14: Mandalore's Revenge

Apparently this chapter was originally going to be called "Mandalore the Avenger" but then Bioware decided that a mere mention of there being a new Mandalore was too much of a spoiler? Seems a bit odd to me. Either way, time to get into some real spoilers.



Another outside view of Odessen base (sorry) transitions to yet another strategy meeting of the Alliance leadership, except that this time only Lana, Senya, Scorpio and Theron (via holocall) are present. Everyone else is "out patrolling", which is a nice way of not having to worry about which characters can be included and which ones may have been driven off or killed due to player decisions in previous chapters.

Scorpio has new information about the Gemini network that controls the Eternal Fleet - it can't be subverted from outside because every ship is captained by a droid based on her design, something the player has already sort of known or at least suspected since the cut scene that finished off chapter seven. She doesn't like this and wants to get to the bottom of it. She's also found out that all captains are moulded after a physical template called the Prime, which is stored in a factory on the planet Darvannis.

The name Darvannis will make the ears of old-school raiders perk up - while newer players might think it just another new planet, the desert planet Darvannis has actually been in game since Rise of the Hutt Cartel, as it's where the operation Scum and Villainy takes place. In my guild at least, this led to some humorous moments when this chapter was launched, such as an ops leader logging in on patch day and being absolutely bewildered to find everyone already (seemingly) in an operation, and in three different instances of it to boot. This is the first time that a location from inside an operation or flashpoint has successfully transitioned to the "outside world".


Senya and Lana inform you that the factory is too large to be taken by a mere strike team, and Lana cautions that you don't have the forces for a large scale assault. However, Theron claims to have called in some favours in the Outer Rim that should get you enough allies to go through with the operation, though he doesn't want to give any more details over the holo.

As you land on Darvannis, the nature of your allies becomes apparent very quickly (and not just because of Vode An playing in the background) - it's the Mandalorians, now led by Shae Vizla aka "Mandalore the Avenger". Apparently the Mandalorians haven't got along with the Eternal Empire either and are eager for an opportunity to actually hurt it, plus raiding the giant factory should result in lots of armour and weapons for them. They already have teams deployed hammering away it, trying to get its shield generator down. Shae (I can still call her Shae, right? Mandalore is so formal...) suggests that you could help by capturing the nearby perimeter guns and aiming them at the factory as well. As support she assigns you a certain, totally random Mandalorian called Torian Cadera... whom bounty hunter players will of course be happy to see, especially if they romanced him, though there isn't enough time for an extended reunion at this point.

You get a bonus mission to pick up some Mandalorian gear, which then leads to you killing three Zakuulan walkers and gives you three extra buttons to press for the rest of the chapter if you like that sort of thing. Otherwise you just fight your way to the three perimeter guns and reprogram them to fire at the factory. There are a lot of skytroopers in the way, but since this is an open world area, you can benefit from other people clearing them out or at least distracting them for you occasionally. While making your way around, you hear various Mandalorians giving status updates about their own progress and generally expressing their bloodlust, as Mandalorians are wont to do. Even Jos and Valk from Blood Hunt are here!

Once you've reprogrammed all the guns, you get to fire them... except a whole bunch of Mandalorians have been trapped inside the perimeter. The dark side and Torian are in favour of blowing them to smithereens along with everything else because apparently there is no honour in dying to droids, but you can order him to change the guns' targets to create an opening so the Mandos can escape instead.

We cut to a view of the Eternal Throne where Arcann and Vaylin watch the Mandalorians' suicidal attacks with a mix of bewilderment and amusement. Vaylin shows just how disturbed she is once again by going on about how the Fleet should burn them all to glass so they can be turned into a pretty window, however Arcann is convinced that they will eventually exhaust themselves on the defenses anyway, without the need for intervention.


You return to camp to find Shae's second in command, Khomo Fett, holding a speech about the honourable deaths of the Mandalorians who died fighting mindless droids... I wonder if I'm the only one who initially found this scene a bit confusing, as he does sound quite sincere in that boasty way that Mandalorians have... but Shae frowns at him and Torian tells him to not mock the dead. You can ask about why they are acting so weird when it comes to the subject of fighting droids and Shae explains that they've been fighting them in such huge numbers since the rise of the Eternal Empire that killing them has pretty much lost all meaning. Khomo likens dying to a droid to "falling off a cliff".

Before the next assault it's time for a little catch-up with Torian and for a Mandalorian "party", which means people shoving and punching each other at random and shooting holes into the ceiling. (Sadly it's just a brief cut scene and you don't get to participate actively.) The next morning an attack on the factory's power stations is planned, while you and Torian are supposed to distract Zakuulan forces at a nearby tactical outpost. Time to kill more droids while Mandalorians shout things over the comm!

Once you've finished up, Lana calls you on the holo to let you know that Theron has procured schematics for the factory, which should help with assaulting it. She also warns you not to trust the Mandalorians too much, likening them to wild animals.

Up next, it's time for the main assault. Khomo already dreams of all the glory that will follow once you win. You explain that your own target is the Gemini Prime droid, which the Mandalorians are all too happy to let you have while they get the rest of the spoils. Shae expresses worry about the factory being a bit of a death trap, at which point you can offer to share the schematics or withhold that information. Finally, she steps on a crate outside to hold a rousing speech for the assembled Mandalorians, explaining that while today's fight isn't that honourable by their standards, it will ultimately lead to much greater things.


You and Torian set out to recover the Prime. Time for yet more droid killing while Mandalorians transmit their death cries! There's another boss fight featuring the tiresome "immune to damage until you kill all the slowly spawning adds" mechanic. Then you get notified that hundreds of droid reinforcements are on the way, and Torian offers to hold them off on his own while you get the Prime. Um, sure, buddy! Before that he just wants you to know that he overheard your conversation with Lana and that Mandalorians are not animals.

We briefly cut to the Eternal Throne again, where Vaylin in particular is displeased that Arcann's not following her advice seems to once again not have worked out so well. Arcann realises that it must be the Outlander who's to blame for the Mandalorians' renewed fervour, but Vaylin points out that it's too late now to send the fleet to stop them. Nonetheless Arcann feels that he's been sitting on the throne for too long (no kidding, he doesn't seem to spend time anywhere else) and asks for his flagship to be readied.

You find Gemini Prime floating in a sort of stasis tube. She is not pleased by your interference but maintains a sort of detached curiosity. She identifies Scorpio as familiar but claims that instead of her being a copy, they both come from the same source, the so-called Luminous Engine. Scorpio doesn't want to hear any of it and just urges you to remove the Prime quickly. You can allow her to disconnect herself or remove her forcefully.


As you load the frozen Prime into your shuttle, you observe the Mandalorian wounded and the counting of casualties. Torian has survived somehow, what a shock. If you withheld the factory schematics, both Khomo and Shae are pretty angry about the casualties and kind of questioning whether it was all worth it. Otherwise they are super happy about their victory, with Khomo already dreaming of the next big battle, and you sort of suggest that they should redirect their energy elsewhere, whether it be helping Zakuul rebuild or attacking your former enemy faction. Torian joins you as a companion as he assigned to you as your new Mandalorian liason.

Back on Zakuul, Scorpio is analysing the Prime's brain and says that she will soon be able to locate all Gemini units. She still can't control them remotely, but she thinks that she could gain control of the fleet via the Prime if they could plug her into the command console of one of the Eternal Fleet ships. She's also already located a suitable target: a lone Eternal Fleet ship making a transport run in a nearby system. There isn't much time to intercept it, and you may not get such a good chance again. It's time to go on the offensive.

Conclusion

I just mentioned in my last Flashpoint Friday that I'm not overly fond of the Mandalorians, so what did I think of a chapter entirely dedicated to them? Well, actually I liked it well enough, even if it couldn't match the greatness of chapter thirteen, but that doesn't really have anything to do with the subject matter. In fact, I did like the way the Mandalorians were handled in this context. It was interesting to see the introduction of another major faction that still wields some fighting power and also opposes the Eternal Fleet. On my trooper I also got a nice line in about how the Mandalorians are pretty much just another type of soldier and are at least easier to understand than all that Force stuff.

On Twitter I joked that the chapter had a certain kind of meta humour to it, considering that we, the players, have been complaining about the overabundance of skytroopers for months and here are the Mandalorians, having pretty much the same issue. The fact that Darvannis is actually an open planet that you can revisit outside of the chapter feels like another small favour to the player base's clamouring for more planets, though the actually accessible area is quite small. Also, there isn't really any reason to go there outside of the chapter's story, unless you really enjoy gathering grade nine crafting materials out in the world.


What I found the most striking about this chapter however was how "old school" it feels. There aren't many fancy cut scenes, and the pacing is more akin to something you might find in the original levelling game: lots of conversation, then you run around and kill things, then another conversation, then you go to the other end of the map and kill things again. I'm actually kind of unsure how I feel about this - on the one hand I really like how immersive the newer format introduced by KotFE feels, but on the other hand it can almost be exhausting to play through an hour-long chapter that doesn't offer many good opportunities to have a break. Chapter fourteen is less exciting than many previous chapters, but I'm finding it fairly chill to replay since it's very clearly segmented, and the skytrooper fighting bits can be as long or as short as you want to make them.

Looking at the wider community, the reaction to this chapter seemed to be fairly calm if you weren't a big fan of the Mandalorians already. Those that liked it thought that it was nice and those that didn't thought it was kind of boring, but it didn't seem to excite people very much either way. It's easy to see why: Chapter fourteen doesn't have any great moments that make you gasp or laugh (though I liked Torian's letter afterwards where he comments that members of the Alliance like his hair...) but it continues the story in a solid way and one can only wonder what's coming up next now that the Alliance actually has a plan of attack... we'll find out in the next chapter!

2 comments :

  1. As much as I really liked this Chapter the first time - I imagine that, similar to my love of Legacy of the Rakata, this is mostly due to the older game's music being used - I find my opinion of it has mellowed over time.

    I still do find it one of the most decent chapters, but it doesn't seem to hold up as well as it did even so much as a month later. I don't know why this is exactly, but it could be due to the lack of any real defining moments as you pointed out.

    I do like how the shallow "Honour beats all!" attitude of Khomo is contrasted by Shae and, to a lesser extent, Torian. It is possible to have glory without maintaining honour, and vice versa, but the 'stereotypical' Mandalorian as seen in this game only cares about honour this and honour that. Ah, well.

    I do wish that we could insult Khomo more often, though. He had the potential to be the Thana Vesh of Chapter XIV, and yet you can't really rail against him at every opportunity and have fun like you can with Vesh. Heck, you're given more opportunities to heckle Shae..!

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    1. I agree that the contrasting of the different Mandalorian characters is not bad. It's just not great either... after all, all it shows is that not every single Mandalorian is a stereotype - only most of them...

      It is a bit weird how Khomo keeps smack-talking and you don't really get a chance to call him out on it. You're right that this is a missed opportunity.

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